Davidson recognizes his need for a changed attitude
Matt Davidson concedes it wasn't easy.
It wasn't easy being one of the most touted prospects in his high school class. It wasn't easy committing to arguably the most high-profile athletic program in the country before most of his classmates had started flipping through SAT practice books.
It wasn't easy for Matt Davidson as he went to events like the Perfect Game National Showcase and USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars and heard his teammates from around the country talk about the outstanding spring seasons they had.
You don't have to scour box scores or call up scouts as Davidson will tell you himself. His spring season at Yucaipa High School was lackluster, at best. For many players the spring of their junior year can be their arrival as a big-time prospect as they tear through high school competition.
"I didn't have such a hot year," Davidson said.
To outsiders who had followed Davidson since early in his high school career it might have been surprising to see him bat just .329 in the spring of 2008. But as Davidson watched his season unfold, the string of events that led to a disappointing spring in an otherwise charmed baseball career became clear.
Heading into 2008 Davidson was one of the top prospects in the 2009 draft class, but his season brought a number of concerns to the forefront for Southern California scouts. Seeing him in the spring, scouts were alarmed by his inconsistent approach.
Davidson was one of the highest profile and earliest commitments to come out of the Class of 2009. He committed to Southern California before college was on the minds of most kids his age. The early commitment didn't do anything to deter Davidson's vaunted work ethic, but he concedes his mindset about baseball may have changed as he entered the spring of 2008.
"I wouldn't say I didn't work as hard," Davidson said. "But it was kind of like 'Oh, OK I'll just go out and play now.'"
Yucaipa head coach Roman Stout has seen plenty of players pass through his program including 1991 first-round pick Tyrone Hill (Brewers), but the mere suggestion that Davidson slacked off causes the otherwise affable coach to turn serious.
"Matt works so hard," Stout said. "He is the hardest worker you'll ever be around."
Heading into his junior year, the growing attention brought along plenty of distractions. Suddenly the stands at Yucaipa games were filled of scouts and agents looking to get closer to the 6-foot-3, 205-pound infielder.
Davidson not only had to deal with the off-the-field distractions that come with being an elite prospect, but opposing teams in Southern California who had seen Davidson crush their team for two years had no interest in giving him any good pitches to hit.
"The scouts and the agents were probably a distraction to him," Stout said. "Plus the knowledge all the other teams had of him, they were going to stay away from him. We didn't have anyone to protect him (in the lineup)."
A disappointing spring season allowed Davidson to adjust his mental approach to the game, in turn improving his on-field performance. Even though Davidson's summer took him to the highest profile showcases in the country facing the most elite competition that the Class of 2009 had to offer, he raised his performance to a higher level.
"You want to face the best competition," Davidson said. "Everyone's dream is to be the best and that's definitely mine. The only way you become the best is playing the best."
Davidson announced his return to the top of the class with his performance in the World Wood Bat Classic. Playing for the ABD Bulldogs, Davidson powered his team to the finals of the 192-team tournament in East Cobb, Ga. with four home runs in the tournament.
Like most high school players, Davidson took some time to adjust to the wood bats early in the summer, but his immense raw power has still impressed scouts.
"It is a huge difference using wood," Davidson said. "I haven't even touched a metal bat all summer. Every bat I hold is wood. Early on it was a little rough, but now I feel good."
Just as Davidson adjusted to wood bats, his swing has finally adjusted to better pitching and scouts have taken notice.
"When he tightened up his backswing he looked a lot better. He has a ton of power," said Dave Perkin, scout for Baseball America's Prospect Plus.
After a tough spring Davidson's impressive summer has put him back in favor with many scouts. With the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. and the Aflac All-America game at Dodger Stadium, Davidson has had plenty of time to cement his status as an elite hitter in the class of 2009.
"People are just getting familiar with (the 2009 class) right now," Perkin said. "What really matters is what he does in the spring. At this time two years ago everyone had their doubts about (Mike) Moustakas."
After being named a team captain as a junior at Yucaipa, Davidson has refocused, in the words of Stout, and the results have already begun to show in his impressive tour of the summer showcase circuit.
As for his future Davidson remains focused on improving every day and letting things fall into place over the next year.
"My parents put me back on the track," Davidson said. "If I'm not mature enough to go into pro baseball, I'll go to college. Whatever happens I'm just going to play hard and work hard."